The Mystery of the Hijab and Islam

Explaining the Hijab to the Non-Mulim.

As El-Gharib (1996-97) noted, television, newspapers, books, and magazines are used to present Islam as being a backward and barbaric religion. It has been seen as unjust and oppressive; and more than this, it is seen as being most oppressive to women. These various forms of media misrepresent Islam in different ways, however largely achieve the same negative result – the creation of a growing barrier of misunderstanding and hostility between Islam and it’s followers, and the West.

The media is able to use the Hijab as a means of exploiting Muslim women, and degrading them. The media assumes, in some cases, that the actions of one Muslim are representations of the general Muslim population.

Time, people, culture, society, and the environment we are surrounded by, can produce the formation of many perspectives regarding an issue that we see in today’s society. One of many controversial topics is Islam and the Hijab. Many questions and generalisations are often formed in the minds of many non-Muslims in regards to the concepts behind the Hijab through the influence of the media.

Throughout the years of conflict between the “West” and “Islam”, the media has strongly altered the minds of non-Muslims by negative exploitation of Islam, and Muslims, in particular on Muslim women. It’s an irony although the Taliban claim their guiding philosophy on women are in place to ensure the physical protection and self-respect of women, where as, many Afghan women have been killed, beaten and publicly hung. It increased my awareness of the complexities of Islam and politics in the Middle East including the veiling of Muslim women”. Despite the obvious portrayal of Muslim women and myths that surround it such as; “Muslim women are oppressed”, there continues to be an abundance of Western women reverting to Islam. It is interesting to state the head covering for women is not an Islamic innovation but was also practiced by Judeo-Christian women centuries earlier, and yet is laughed at by the West today.

An image of a Muslim woman wearing the chador was labelled as “like death out for a walk” in the Australian Magazine, 25-26 Jan. 1995 issue. The media implied to locate the position of women in Islamic society as dominated. The image also portrayed the difference between Western and muslim Women in today’s society.

Throughout the years of conflict between the “West” and “Islam”, the media has strongly altered the minds of non-Muslims by negative exploitation of Islam, and Muslims, in particular on Muslim women. Misconceptions such as, “Are you bald underneath” “Do you go to sleep with that on?” to the association of “terrorism” that contrasts to what Muslim women believe the Hijab represents.

Naima Omar, a student of University of Western Sydney says “It is funny to say the same veil worn by catholic nuns for God is despised and presented as a symbol of subjection and domination when it is worn by Muslim women for the intention to protect themselves and devoting themself to God”.

The term Islam means “submission to the will of Allah” and “peace”. Muslims believe Islam is not a religion but a gift that has been awarded to them. They believe Islam is the way of life and that is harmonious however the media portrays the opposite.

Another misconception is “Muslim women have no right in Islam”. Islam gave women rights over 1400 years ago, which is still ignored by many Muslims and non-Muslims today. Islam praises the status of a woman by commanding that she “enjoys equal rights to those of man in everything, she stands on an equal footing with man” (Qur’ an, Nadvi: 11) and both share mutual rights and obligations in all aspects of life.

Every Muslim woman is required to wear a scarf or some sort of head covering and loose-fitting, modest attire. It is interesting to state the head covering for women is not an Islamic innovation but was also practiced by Judeo-Christian women centuries earlier, and yet is laughed at by the West today.

In current affair programs, people watching are bombarded with images of Muslims as savage terrorists, killing innocent people with no remorse. What results from this is the viewers of these programs, recognise and accept only the labels, and therefore with Islam immediately associating it with negative images.

It’s an irony although the Taliban claim their guiding philosophy on women are in place to ensure the physical protection and self-respect of women, where as, many Afghan women have been killed, beaten and publicly hung. For many Afghan women fear of being severely punished by the Taliban is their main security concern.

Muslims have an obligation to fulfill which is to educate themselves, their children to gain knowledge which is ordained upon them regardless of their race, gender and marital status etc.

“Seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim” and therefore gaining knowledge is regarded as an act of worship. Stopping any Muslim from gaining an education regardless of age and sex is not Islamic.

Women that are regaining their identity and role in society, are now wearing the Hijab and are embracing its concept of liberation. The western women had no rights nor did they have rights over their husband. It was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when women were given these rights.

The background history between Islam and the West will shed some light as to why Muslims are portrayed so negatively in the media. One of the most effective ways the media attempts to somehow prevent Islam being seen in a positive frame is to develop propaganda against Muslims and Islam.

An action by one Muslim is presented with so much bias. If one Muslim commits a crime, it is not the religion but the person presented that goes to trial.

Despite the obvious portrayal of Muslim women and myths that surround it such as; “Muslim women are oppressed”, there continues to be an abundance of Western women reverting to Islam. What Islam uses to protect women is the Hijab.

Many women are treated in ways far from Islamic ideals, yet in the name of Islam. There is no freedom for women if they are imprisoned in their home in the name of the Hijab and Islam.

It is the veil from the Pre-Islamic Era that is considered as “traditional” which stops women from contributing in society. The Hijab is aimed at presenting women with poise and equality in society. The Taliban are a party who regard such activities un-Islamic for women, who are prohibited from exercising their primary rights.

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